Ruth Mountaingrove videotape autobiography, 1988-1997  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Mountaingrove, Ruth
Ruth Mountaingrove videotape autobiography
1988-1997 (inclusive)
0.75 linear feet, (3 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 265
Ruth Mountaingrove is a photographer, writer and artist who moved to Oregon in 1971, settling in communes and eventually co-founding Rootworks, a lesbian community in Southern Oregon. The collection consists of 21 VHS videotapes of Mountaingrove relating the story of her life by talking, dancing, and singing.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 541-346-3068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Born February 21, 1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from a Pennsylvania Dutch background, Ruth Mountaingrove is the daughter of Edith Shelling and Herbert Daniel Shook. She graduated from Kutztown State Teacher's College, now known as Kutztown University. Many years later Ruth continued her education at Humboldt State University, in Arcata, California, where she studied photography and received a Masters of Fine Arts in 1990 at the age of 68. She has lived on the West Coast since 1971.

The video tapes cover all aspects of Ruth's life, beginning from the time of her birth to the year she made the last video in 1997. Ruth takes the viewer through her childhood and her teenage years where she began her love of music, literature and photography. In junior high Ruth bought her first camera, a pivotal moment in her life. While in college, Ruth gained more experience as a photographer and began writing poetry.

In 1946, while living in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Ruth was a teacher, poet, and artist. During that period she published her first book of poetry, Rhythms of Spring. On December 27, 1946 she married Bern Ikeler. Together they had 5 children: Eric, Kim, Jeff, David, and Heather. Eric died shortly after birth and David died when he was a young man, while living in Southern Oregon.

A central theme in Ruth's writings is feminism and lesbianism. Her feminism began after she read Betty Friedan's, The Feminine Mystique in 1963 during the rise of the Women's Movement. Ruth shares details about experiencing generations of family abuse. Ruth divorced her husband in 1965.

During this period when Ruth was changing her life and becoming a feminist, a momentous event occurred. She met and fell in love with her future lover and partner, Jean Mountaingrove. They met in 1970 while attending a conference in Wallingford, PA., at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Retreat Center. Ruth eventually moved to Oregon in 1971 to join Jean. Together they lived in several intentional communities: Mountain Grove (from which they took their last name), Golden, and Cabbage Lane. They co-published WomanSpirit magazine for ten years, from 1974 to 1984. With its national distribution, WomanSpirit became one of the most influential feminist/lesbian magazines of its time. It brought many women to Oregon who were seeking a collective way of life on women's land in the country.

In 1978 Ruth and Jean bought Rootworks, privately owned land near Wolf Creek, Oregon, where they continued to publish WomanSpirit magazine. A barn, called Natalie Barney, was built by a large crew of women, to provide for the growing needs of the publication. Rootworks was also the location for the Women Photographer's Ovulars, which were weeklong workshops for feminist photographers. These workshops took place annually for six years. The feminist photography magazine, The Blatant Image, which developed from the Ovulars, was also published at Rootworks.

After 12 years, Ruth and Jean's domestic partnership ended. Ruth had heard about free tuition at California colleges for people over 60, so she decided to continue her education in photography and art. She moved to Arcata, California to attend Humboldt State University where she received a degree in photography.

Throughout her life, Ruth has expressed her creativity through dance, writing poems, articles, and short stories, writing and singing songs, and by painting and taking photographs. She reads some of her poems and sings many of her songs, while playing her guitar, throughout the videos. She also tapes her performance art, many of her paintings and photographs, as well as her art studios and art exhibits.

Ruth has been photographing women in lesbian communities across the United States for many years and has been involved in the writing and publishing of many women's publications, including Country Women magazine, Country Women's Spirituality issue, WomanSpirit magazine, The Blatant Image, as well as her songbooks, Turned on Women, Country Songs and Women's Songs

Ruth has had many one-woman exhibitions including those at Boston University; the University of Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon. Her month long one-woman exhibition, at the University of Oregon Museum of Art in 1988, included mostly lesbian photographs, a lecture, and slide show presentation. She was also editor for OLOC, (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) from 1994 to 1997.

At age 81, Ruth continues to live in Arcata where she is still active in the community and busy with her art and photography.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Ruth Mountaingrove Videotape Autobiography contains 21 VHS tapes. Ruth recorded her video-autobiography between approximately 1988 and 1997. The contents are presented in rough chronological order, though many start out in the present and then continue with the past. Ruth talks about her life and occasionally plays the guitar and sings her songs, or reads one of her poems. She occasionally tapes other rooms or objects in her apartment, such as artwork and special possessions. Ruth also tapes her different art studios, her photographs, paintings and art exhibitions, as well as her performance art.

For most of the videotapes, Ruth uses a borrowed video camera set on a tripod to tape herself. Most of the recordings take place in her living room while she is seated in her rocking chair. The quality of the video and audio recordings varies from tape to tape. Some are of a very low quality.

Most of the tapes focus on Ruth's life as a country lesbian in Oregon and her work as a writer, publisher, and photographer. She also discusses her experience with WomanSpirit magazine, the Ovulars (weeklong workshops for feminist photographers) and The Blatant Image magazine, as well as her life as an art student at Humboldt State University.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Communal living--Oregon
  • Family violence--United States
  • Feminism and art--United States
  • Lesbian community--Oregon
  • Lesbianism--United States
  • Lesbians--Oregon--Biography
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Biography
  • Women photographers--United States--Biography
  • Personal Names :
  • Mountaingrove, Jean
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Autobiographies
  • Videotapes